I think one reason people are often unhappy in their jobs is the lack of control. For many, you are at the mercy of The Man, and you don’t realize the toll that takes until it’s gone. One of the best things about retirement has been the absence of what felt like constant electric prods – an email, a phone call, an IM, some executive or somebody somewhere is unhappy and needs something now. Drop everything!
Stress and even mind-numbing activity can be stimulating, but life without the prods makes me happy. It’s like there’s extra space in my brain. I love simple pleasures and having time to explore whatever I fancy. Breakfast with my husband, sharing sections of the newspaper. The library! Shopping for groceries in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. A crossword puzzle or a good book. Long walks and sunshine. Happy hour at 4.
To be fair, I should mention a couple of things about retirement I don’t like. For starters, I feel like the house elf. My husband does chores, but he really needs to be on a performance improvement plan. Stupidly, I signed up for floors – all the floors in the house, so that includes mopping and vacuuming. I probably need to renegotiate that deal.
Trips to Target are more complicated. I used to go by myself. Now, I say, hey, I’m going to Target, and my husband says, “Oh, yay, road trip.” Well, it was not exactly an invitation. We’ve reached a truce. You can wander with me, but do not mess with my Target run.
The other surprise was anxiety. I’ve always been somewhat of a worry wart, but most of my energy was directed at work. I had very little time to let my mind drift to all the things that can go wrong. Suddenly I had a bunch of free time to think about the worst that could happen.
For example, we moved when I retired, and for a couple of months, we owned two houses. I would ruminate in bed at night: What if North Korea bombs us, and nobody buys our house? My husband was like, if North Korea bombs us, I assure you the house will be the least of our worries. But I would dig deeper. What if it’s just a mini-attack, the kind that dampens the market but doesn’t destroy civilization? Could we still sell the house?
Of course, the house did sell, and that was a relief. I still think about North Korea, but at least I only have one mortgage.
Donna Pekar is an aging badass (for real) who lives in California and writes Retirement Confidential.